Teenage Drinking: How to Talk to Your Kids About Alcohol

Teenage Drinking: How to Talk to Your Kids About Alcohol

As parents, one of our greatest responsibilities is ensuring the well-being and safety of our children. As our kids transition into their teenage years, they begin to face new challenges and encounters, one of which is the temptations and risks associated with alcohol consumption. The topic of teenage drinking can be uncomfortable and even daunting, but open and honest communication can play a pivotal role in shaping your child's understanding of alcohol and its potential consequences. 

In this blog, we will explore the importance of discussing alcohol with your teenagers and provide you with effective strategies and valuable insights to facilitate meaningful conversations. By arming yourself with knowledge, understanding the factors influencing teenage drinking, and employing practical communication techniques, you can empower your children to make informed choices and navigate the complex landscape of alcohol responsibly.

Alcohol Facts for Kids 

According to recent 2020 studies about teens and alcohol, a significant number of teenagers have experimented with alcohol. Approximately 55% of high school seniors, 41% of 10th graders, and 21% of 8th graders reported trying alcohol within the past year. Furthermore, a concerning proportion of students engage in binge drinking, with 17% of high school seniors, 10% of 10th graders, and 5% of 8th graders admitting to binge drinking within the past two weeks. These statistics highlight the importance of addressing the issue of underage drinking and implementing effective prevention strategies.

Moreover, alcohol statistics from 2019 found that:

  • Over 24% of 14- to 15-year-olds acknowledged having consumed at least one alcoholic beverage, according to a trusted source.
  • Approximately 7 million individuals aged 12 to 20 admitted to consuming more than just a few sips of alcohol within the past month.
  • 4.2 million underage individuals engaged in binge drinking, placing themselves at significant risk of harm, including injuries, physical or sexual assault, and even death. 

These facts are alarming because kids who consume alcohol are at an increased risk of becoming victims of violent crime and being involved in alcohol-related traffic accidents. Additionally, their school performance may suffer significantly. Your influence as a parent is crucial in shaping your child's values and decisions regarding alcohol, especially before they start using it. Establishing open communication and setting clear expectations can make a significant difference. 

Parents have the power to make a significant impact on their children's drinking habits, particularly during the preteen and early teenage years. By actively engaging in conversations and providing guidance, parents can help steer their children toward responsible choices when it comes to alcohol. 

How to Talk to My Son About Drinking

When initiating a conversation with your child about drinking, it's important to approach the topic with empathy, openness, and a non-judgmental attitude. 

When talking to your child about drinking, it’s important to set clear expectations and boundaries. Clearly communicate your expectations regarding alcohol use, emphasizing that underage drinking is illegal and unsafe. Discuss the rules and consequences in your household regarding alcohol and make sure your child understands them.

As a parent, it’s your job to be a positive role model. Your actions speak louder than words. Model responsible behavior when it comes to alcohol consumption and demonstrate healthy ways to manage stress or social situations without relying on alcohol.

Your own behavior around alcohol will have a significant impact on your child, surpassing the influence of any rules you may establish. When you exhibit responsible and healthy attitudes and behaviors towards alcohol, your child is more likely to follow suit. Research on the early onset of alcohol use indicates that children of parents who frequently drink or openly discuss drinking are more prone to trying alcohol at an earlier age. Conversely, children who receive warnings about the dangers of alcohol are more likely to delay their experimentation.

Building a loving and supportive relationship with your child is just as crucial, along with maintaining open lines of communication. Studies indicate that teenagers who have a close and supportive bond with their parents or guardians are more inclined to postpone their initiation into drinking. This is because they are less susceptible to peer pressure, thanks to higher self-esteem, and because they feel comfortable seeking your guidance when they have questions about alcohol or drinking.

Moreover, having a close relationship with you motivates them to meet your expectations rather than rebel against them, fostering a sense of mutual trust and respect. Further research supports the idea that parenting styles combining discipline, rules, and boundaries with warmth and kindness are the most effective when talking to your child about drinking. 

How to Handle Teenage Drinking

Discovering that your teenager has been drinking can be a challenging situation. When approaching teens drinking alcohol, here are some tips to follow for effective communication:

  • Maintain a calm, honest, and assertive approach when discussing alcohol with your teenager.
  • If you consume alcohol, acknowledge it, but also clearly explain the differences between the impact on an adult's brain versus a teenager's developing brain.
  • Encourage open dialogue by asking your teen questions and allowing them to provide honest answers, even if they might be difficult to hear. For instance, if you discover alcohol in their room, inquire about where they obtained it, their reasons for having it, and their interest in drinking.
  • Assure your child that they can always approach you with any questions or concerns or simply engage in conversation.
  • Practice active listening when your child shares their thoughts or experiences.
  • Explain the household rules regarding alcohol and the reasons why it can be dangerous during adolescence. You can also touch upon the legal consequences of underage drinking.
  • Use open-ended questions to inquire about your teen's plans, the people they associate with, or their friends.
  • If someone in your family has struggled with addiction or drinking, be honest about it. Allow your teenager to ask any questions they may have about the matter.

What to Do if You Catch Your Teenager Drinking 

If you catch your teenager drinking, you may be wondering what to do when your child drinks alcohol. Here are some steps to consider if you catch your teenager drinking:

1. Stay Calm and Composed 

It's essential to approach the situation with a calm and composed demeanor. Reacting with anger or becoming overly confrontational may hinder effective communication.

2. Gather Information 

Before addressing the issue with your teenager, gather as much information as possible. Determine where and when the drinking occurred, who else was involved, and if there were any specific circumstances or incidents related to it.

3. Choose an Appropriate Time for Discussion 

Find a suitable time to talk when both you and your teenager are free from distractions and can have a private conversation. Ensure that you have enough time to discuss the matter thoroughly.

4. Express Your Concerns 

Begin the conversation by expressing your concerns about their drinking behavior. Focus on the potential risks and negative consequences associated with underage drinking, emphasizing your worries for their well-being and future. 

5. Listen Actively 

Give your teenager an opportunity to explain their perspective, motivations, and feelings. Practice active listening and show empathy to better understand their reasons for engaging in underage drinking.

6. Maintain Open Communication 

After addressing the issue, emphasize that your goal is to support and guide them in making better choices. Encourage ongoing communication, where your teenager feels comfortable discussing their concerns or experiences without fear of judgment.

7. Provide Education and Support 

Offer information about alcohol, its effects, and the importance of making responsible choices. Provide resources such as educational materials, websites, or books that can help them understand the risks and consequences better.

8. Set Appropriate Consequences

Depending on the severity of the situation, establish appropriate consequences that are aimed at teaching rather than punishing. These consequences should be related to the incident, proportionate, and focused on learning and growth. For example, restricting social privileges, implementing a curfew, or temporarily removing access to certain activities. 

Appropriate Consequences for Teenage Drinking

When addressing teenage drinking, it is important to consider consequences that are appropriate, constructive, and effective in helping teenagers understand the potential risks and make responsible choices. Here are some examples of appropriate consequences for teenage drinking:

Open and Honest Discussions 

Engage in calm and non-judgmental conversations with your teenager about the dangers and consequences of underage drinking. Listen to their perspective, address their concerns, and provide information to help them make informed decisions.

Education and Awareness Programs 

Encourage your teenager to participate in educational programs, workshops, or support groups that focus on alcohol awareness, responsible drinking, and the potential consequences of alcohol abuse. These programs can provide valuable insights and reinforce the importance of making responsible choices.

Privilege Restrictions 

If your teenager has engaged in underage drinking, consider temporarily restricting certain privileges, such as limiting their access to social events or requiring them to come home earlier than usual. This can serve as a reminder of the importance of following rules and making responsible decisions.

Counseling or Therapy 

If your teenager's drinking habits become concerning or problematic, consider seeking professional help. A counselor or therapist can provide guidance, support, and strategies to address underlying issues and develop healthy coping mechanisms.

The aim of appropriate consequences is to guide and educate rather than punish. It is essential to maintain open lines of communication, show understanding, and reinforce the importance of responsible decision-making throughout the process. 

At TIPS, we understand the importance of preventing underage drinking, which is why in our Alcohol Safety Training courses, we provide extensive training on safe practices when serving alcohol, such as spotting fake IDs.